Bumblebee (film)

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Transformers: Bumblebee
A yellow robot with glowing blue eyes, a teenaged girl, and stern-looking man are superimposed over a sunset at the San Francisco Golden Gate Bridge.
Theatrical release poster
Directed byTravis Knight
Written byChristina Hodson
Based onTransformers
by Hasbro
Produced by
CinematographyEnrique Chediak
Edited byPaul Rubell
Music byDario Marianelli
Distributed byParamount Pictures
Release dates
  • December 3, 2018 (2018-12-03) (Sony Center)
  • December 21, 2018 (2018-12-21) (United States)
Running time
114 minutes[1][2]
Budget$102–135 million[4][5][6]
Box office$468 million[5]

Bumblebee (stylized as BumbleBee and sometimes marketed as Transformers: Bumblebee)[7][8][9] is a 2018 science fiction action film based on the Hasbro's Transformers toy line character of the same name. It is the sixth installment in the Transformers live-action film series, serving as both a spin-off and prequel to Transformers (2007). The film is directed by Travis Knight and written by Christina Hodson. It stars Hailee Steinfeld, John Cena, Jorge Lendeborg Jr., John Ortiz, Jason Drucker, and Pamela Adlon, and features Dylan O'Brien (as the title character), Angela Bassett, Justin Theroux, and Peter Cullen in voice roles. It was Knight's first live-action film,[10] as well as the first film in the Transformers series not to be directed by Michael Bay, who instead acted as a producer. Principal photography on the film began on July 31, 2017, in Los Angeles and San Francisco, California.

Bumblebee premiered on December 3, 2018, at the Sony Center in Berlin, and was released in the United States on December 21, by Paramount Pictures. The film received generally positive reviews from critics, which praised its action sequences, Steinfeld's performance, Knight's direction, visuals, and the 1980s setting.[11] The film was successful at the box office, despite being the lowest-grossing film of the franchise, grossing $468 million worldwide against a budget between $102–135 million. A sequel, Transformers: Rise of the Beasts, is to be released in 2023.


On the planet Cybertron, the Autobots, led by Optimus Prime, are on the verge of losing their war against the Decepticons and prepare to evacuate the planet. Decepticon forces led by Starscream, Soundwave, and Shockwave intercept the Autobots during their evacuation, and Optimus sends Autobot scout B-127[a] to Earth in an escape pod to set up a base of operations while he stays behind to fend off the Decepticons. B-127 reaches Earth and crash-lands in California, disrupting a training exercise by Sector 7, a secret government agency tasked with monitoring extraterrestrial activity on Earth. Colonel Jack Burns presumes B-127 to be hostile and orders his men to attack the Autobot. B-127 scans a Willys MB jeep and flees to a nearby mine, where he is ambushed by the Decepticon Blitzwing. When B-127 refuses to reveal Optimus's whereabouts, Blitzwing tears out his voice box and damages his memory core, prompting B-127 to kill the Decepticon with one of his own missiles. B-127 scans a nearby 1967 yellow Volkswagen Beetle before collapsing from his injuries.

In 1987, Charlene "Charlie" Watson, who is depressed by the death of her father and resentful of her mother Sally's relationship with her new boyfriend Ronald, finds the Beetle in a local scrapyard owned by her friend Hank, who gives it to her as an 18th-birthday present. When trying to start it, Charlie unknowingly activates a homing signal that is detected by the Decepticons Shatter and Dropkick while they interrogate and kill Cliffjumper on one of Saturn's moons. The two Decepticons head to Earth, acquire human-made vehicle forms, and encounter Sector 7; pretending to be peacekeepers, they persuade the agency to help them capture B-127, despite Burns' objections.

As Charlie attempts to fix the Beetle, it transforms into B-127, whom she befriends and names "Bumblebee". She then unknowingly unlocks a message from Optimus urging Bumblebee to defend Earth, which restores some of his memories. They are discovered by Charlie's neighbor Memo, who agrees to protect their secret, while Bumblebee learns to use his radio to communicate. While left alone one day, Bumblebee unintentionally destroys Charlie's home and causes an energy spike that attracts Sector 7's attention. When Sally blames Charlie for the havoc, Charlie has an emotional breakdown and finally expresses her pain over her father's death and leaves with Bumblebee and Memo, only to be intercepted by Sector 7 and the Decepticons. Bumblebee is captured while Charlie and Memo are returned home.

Charlie convinces her brother Otis to cover for her and Memo as they follow Burns to the Sector 7 outpost where Bumblebee is being held. While torturing Bumblebee, Shatter and Dropkick accidentally activate a message from Optimus and learn that the Autobots are coming to Earth. Dropkick then kills Bumblebee and Dr. Powell, but not before the latter is able to alert Burns to the truth about the Decepticons.

Charlie electroshocks Bumblebee back to life, restoring his memories, and fends off Burns' obstruction. After evading the military with the help of Memo and her family, Charlie and Bumblebee pursue the Decepticons, who are using a radio tower at a nearby harbor to contact their allies on Cybertron. Shatter shoots down Burns' helicopter when he tries to intervene, but he is saved by Bumblebee. Bumblebee fights Dropkick and binds him with a chain, ripping him apart. Charlie deactivates the Decepticon beacon, only to be pursued by Shatter. Bumblebee destroys a dam wall, triggering a flood that causes a cargo ship to crush and destroy Shatter. Bumblebee and Charlie escape the army and later arrive on a cliff overlooking the Golden Gate Bridge, where Charlie, realizing that Bumblebee has a greater purpose, says goodbye. Bumblebee takes on a new 1977 Chevrolet Camaro form and drives off, and Charlie reunites with her family and Memo.

Bumblebee reunites with Optimus, who successfully escaped Cybertron. He praises Bumblebee for keeping Earth safe as they watch more escape pods enter Earth's atmosphere. Meanwhile, Charlie finishes repairing the Corvette she and her father were working on and takes the classic vehicle for a drive.



In addition, Nick Pilla plays Sector 7 agent Seymour Simmons, an older version of whom was portrayed by John Turturro in previous Transformers films.[12] Fred Dryer plays Sheriff Lock, a sheriff who enters into a high-speed chase with Charlie, Memo, and Bumblebee, while Edwin Hodge plays Danny Bell, an agent of Sector 7. Tim Martin Gleason appears in flashback sequences as Charlie's deceased father. Rachel Crow and Abby Quinn appear in deleted scenes as Charlie's friends Liz and Brenda respectively.




Transformers who appear in non-speaking roles include Ironhide, an Autobot weapons specialist; Starscream, a Decepticon seeker and the second-in-command of the Decepticons; and Ravage, Soundwave's minion who is housed in his chest. The Decepticon forces consist of numerous generic Decepticon seekers who transform into Cybertronian jets, many of whom use color schemes based on the pre-existing Transformers characters Skywarp, Thundercracker and Thrust.[21]



On February 12, 2016, it was announced that the sixth film in the Transformers series, Transformers 6, was slated for release on June 8, 2018, and it was later revealed that the film would be an untitled spin-off, featuring Bumblebee.[22] On November 11, 2016, Deadline reported that Paramount Pictures was moving forward with the project, with Christina Hodson announced as having written the script for the spin-off; Hodson was one of the female writers Paramount and Michael Bay had hired for the series' "writers room."[23] Kelly Fremon Craig performed a rewrite of the script, but was ultimately not credited in the final product.[24][25] Hodson said the film hadn't changed much since her initial 2015 pitch, and 2016 first draft, with the key elements and broad emotion strokes all staying true, although she notes the film had gotten bigger and more fun, including the addition of visiting Cybertron.[26] Hodson elaborated "Pretty early on, I knew I wanted to tell the story of two broken people who are healing each other. So the broken girl and the broken car kind of felt like a romantic notion."[27]

On March 2, 2017, Deadline reported that Travis Knight was set to direct the film.[28] In May 2017, it was revealed that the film's story would be set in the 1980s, and that it would feature fewer robots.[29] In the same month, it was announced that the film's title was then Transformers Universe: Bumblebee.[30] It was Knight's first live-action film,[10] he compared working in live action to his previous work in stop motion, saying he treated scenes featuring the robots as if they were animated scenes, making extensive use of storyboards, breaking down the script and planning out all the details. The scene where Bumblebee explores Charlie's home, he described as "trying to get familiar with this unfamiliar world, it was a lot kind of like Sorcerer's Apprentice".[26] Knight chose to set the film in the 1980s since it was the decade that the original Transformers TV series, of which he was a fan, was released.[31] In spite of Knight's direction differing from the previous films' style, Bay never tried to force Knight to change the film's more story-focused direction, instead supporting Knight during production.[31] Knight also used many elements from the original TV series and the G1 version of the franchise in the film, including the characters' original designs.[31] Knight originally included Megatron when storyboarding the opening battle scenes on Cybertron but used other characters instead to keep continuity with Michael Bay's Transformers.[31]


In May 2017, it was reported that Hailee Steinfeld was in talks to be the lead in the film, and she confirmed her involvement later in June.[32][33] On July 11, 2017, Jorge Lendeborg Jr. joined the cast as the male lead.[34] On July 12, 2017, The Tracking Board reported that Rachel Crow had been cast as well, though she did not appear in the finished film.[35] The following day, more core cast was announced, including Jason Drucker, Abby Quinn, Ricardo Hoyos and Gracie Dzienny, though Quinn ultimately did not appear in the film.[36] On July 22, 2017, it was reported that Pamela Adlon had been cast to play Steinfeld's character's mother.[37] On July 31, 2017, John Cena was added as a lead, with Kenneth Choi and Stephen Schneider set for supporting roles, though Choi did not appear in the final cut.[38] On October 2, 2017, in an interview promoting the home media release of Transformers: The Last Knight, Peter Cullen revealed he would reprise his role of Optimus Prime in the film.[39] On December 11, 2017, it was rumored that actor Martin Short had joined the film's voice roster,[40] though his scene was cut after test screenings.[41] On May 31, 2018, Jess Harnell revealed he would reprise his role as the voice of Barricade from the 2007 film and The Last Knight, but the character did not appear in the final product.[42]

On July 13, 2018, it was announced that Angela Bassett and Justin Theroux would be voicing a pair of new Decepticons, respectively called Shatter and Dropkick, the main antagonists of the film.[43] On August 26, 2018, voice actor David Sobolov, who had previously voiced Depth Charge in Beast Wars: Transformers, Brawl in the 2007 video game, and Shockwave in Transformers: Prime, confirmed he would voice Blitzwing.[44] On December 3, 2018, Lorenzo di Bonaventura revealed to IGN that Dylan O'Brien would voice Bumblebee.[13] On December 9, 2018, about a week before the film's release, voice actress Grey Griffin stated at a special fan screening that she is reprising her role as Arcee from Transformers: Revenge of the Fallen.[15] On the same day, voice actor and long-time Transformers fan Jon Bailey also detailed that he voiced both Shockwave and Soundwave in the film, both of which were previously voiced by Frank Welker in Transformers: Dark of the Moon.[20]


Principal photography on the film began on July 31, 2017, in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Santa Cruz, Vallejo, and Mare Island, California, and was scheduled to finish on November 16, 2017, under the working title Brighton Falls. Filming concluded six days ahead of schedule, on November 10, 2017.[45][46][47] Scroggins Aviation Mockup & Effects was hired to supply the two Bell UH-1H Huey helicopters in the film. One Huey was used for motion base (gimbal) stage work at Long Beach, California studios and the other filming location was at Mare Island peninsula in Vallejo, California where Bumblebee catches the shot up Huey piloted by actor John Cena before crashing.[48]

Later in November 2017, the film was revealed to have changed its title to Bumblebee: The Movie (later being called simply Bumblebee), as well as having wrapped up filming.[49]

Visual effects[edit]

Visual effects for the film were provided by Industrial Light & Magic, Cantina Creative, and The Third Floor, with Jason Smith and Tony Lupoi serving as the main visual effects supervisors.[50]

The special effects team built a life size model of Bumblebee for reference, and to help Hailee Steinfeld act against on set. They built a full size copy of Bumblebee's head, chest and upper arms, with paint detail and light-up eyes.[51][52]



Hailee Steinfeld's single "Back to Life", from the soundtrack, was released on November 2, 2018.[53] The soundtrack featured several songs from the 1980s, including "The Touch", which had featured heavily in the 1986 original cinematic Transformers movie, and was released on December 21, 2018.[54]


Dario Marianelli, who previously scored Knight's Kubo and the Two Strings, provided the music score for the film,[55] making this the first time Steve Jablonsky has not scored one of the films in the franchise. The score was released on December 21, 2018.[56]


Bumblebee was released in the United States on December 21, 2018, by Paramount Pictures. The date had initially been set for June 8, 2018.[38] The first trailer was released on June 5, 2018,[57][18] and two new trailers, including an international trailer, on September 24, 2018.[58] The international trailer showed that Bumblebee was disguised as an old 1941-45 military style Willys MB before he became a Volkswagen Beetle.[59]

On November 21, 2018, Paramount announced it would hold one-day previews for the film on Saturday, December 8, 2018, similar to the promotions Amazon Prime and Sony Pictures ran with the films, Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle and Hotel Transylvania 3: Summer Vacation, and to fellow December 2018 release, Aquaman.[60]

Home media[edit]

Bumblebee was released on Digital HD on March 19, 2019, and was released on 4K Ultra HD Blu-ray, Blu-ray and DVD on April 2, 2019.[61] Bumblebee was also released on VHS on April 1, 2019, as a limited edition promotional item, but not for retail sale.[62][63]


Box office[edit]

Bumblebee grossed $127.2 million in the United States and Canada, and $340.8 million in other territories, for a total worldwide gross of $468 million, against an estimated production budget of $135 million.[5]

In the United States and Canada, Bumblebee was released alongside Aquaman, Welcome to Marwen, and Second Act, and was projected to gross $20–25 million in its opening weekend, and $35–40 million over its first five days.[64] Prior to its release, the film made about $500,000 at 325 theaters from its December 8 screenings, an "impressive" average of $1,500 per venue.[65] The film made $8.5 million on its first day, including $2.15 million from Thursday night previews (a total of $2.85 million including the early screenings). It went on to debut to $21 million, finishing third, behind Aquaman and Mary Poppins Returns. It then grossed $3.8 million on Monday and $8.9 million on Christmas Day, for a five-day total of $34.2 million.[66] In its second weekend, the film made $20.5 million, dropping 5% and remaining in third, and then earned $12.8 million in its third weekend, finishing fifth.[67][68]

Critical response[edit]

On Rotten Tomatoes, the film has an approval rating of 91% based on 253 reviews, with an average rating of 6.9/10. The website's critical consensus read, "Bumblebee proves it's possible to bring fun and a sense of wonder back to a bloated blockbuster franchise -- and sets up its own slate of sequels in the bargain."[69] On Metacritic, the film has a weighted average score of 66 out of 100, based on 39 critics, indicating "generally favorable reviews".[70] It is the highest-rated Transformers film on both websites.[11][71] Audiences polled by CinemaScore gave the film an average grade of "A−" on an A+ to F scale, while those at PostTrak gave it an 85% overall positive score and a 68% "definite recommend".[66]

Liz Shannon Miller of IndieWire gave the film a "B+" and wrote, "...there are many scenes where giant robots fight each other, and in those scenes, you can actually see what's happening. The Autobots and Decepticons toss each other around with slick judo-like moves and blast each other with abandon, and the cinematography and editing hold still long enough to let you enjoy each moment."[72] Peter Debruge of Variety called the film a "quieter, more character-driven Transformers origin story" and wrote that "Bumblebee is basically the movie that fans of the 1980s animated series wanted all along."[73] James Berardinelli of ReelViews writes "Surprisingly, Bumblebee is one of the best escapist films of the season" and "The movie works in large part because of the depth of Steinfeld's performance. We haven't seen such a well-realized character in any of the other Transformers movies."[74] Glenn Kenny of The New York Times said that the film is "springy yet coherent, not, like previous films in the series, a digital-image blender set on high", and praised Steinfeld's in particular for her performance.[75] Leah Greenblatt of Entertainment Weekly said that John Cena "does get a disproportionate share of the script's best lines" and although the film is full of "sweet '80s nostalgia" Greenblatt praises Knight for using it "in ways that feel both familiar and somehow fresh."[76]

Jesse Hassenger of The A.V. Club praised Hailee Steinfeld, saying, "her screen presence is the best thing about Bumblebee". He compared the film to The Iron Giant, but while finding many improvements over other Transformers films, Hassenger called the film "disappointing in the end, because it's still a careless stretch of blockbusting", giving it a "C+".[77] Simon Abrams of RogerEbert.com was critical of the lack of originality and noted the various tropes borrowed from the films of executive producer Steven Spielberg. Abrams did not think the film even succeeded on its own merits, and said: "There's not only nothing new here, there's nothing convincing either".[78]

In March 2020 at GalaxyCon Richmond, Peter Cullen said that during production of the film, he was brought in to dub over a temp track by voice actor Jon Bailey for Optimus Prime due to the character being fully animated in a single day, and had to match Bailey's delivery. As a result, he was disappointed at how his performance came across and the way he was treated.[79]


Bumblebee was nominated for the Razzie Redeemer Award at the 39th Golden Raspberry Awards,[80] in the "Biggest Surprise of the Year" category at the 18th Annual Golden Schmoes Awards,[81] and the category of "Best Song/Score - Trailer" at the 9th Hollywood Music in Media Awards.[82] It was one of the 20 films among the 100 highest-grossing titles of 2018 to receive The ReFrame Stamp.[83] Bumblebee was nominated in three categories for the 2019 Teen Choice Awards for "Choice Action Movie", "Choice Action Movie Actor - John Cena", and "Choice Action Movie Actress - Hailee Steinfeld".[84] The film was also nominated for Best Science Fiction Film and Hailee Steinfeld for Best Supporting Actress at the Saturn Awards.[85]

Award Date Category Recipients Result Ref.
9th Hollywood Music in Media Awards November 14, 2018 Best Song/Score - Trailer Jochem Weierink Nominated [82]
18th Annual Golden Schmoes Awards February 22, 2019 Biggest Surprise of the Year Bumblebee Nominated [81]
39th Golden Raspberry Awards February 23, 2019 Razzie Redeemer Award Bumblebee Nominated [80]
The ReFrame Stamp March 6, 2019 2018 Feature Recipients Bumblebee Won [83]
20th Annual Golden Trailer Awards May 29, 2019 Best Fantasy Adventure "Epic" (Paramount Pictures, Create Advertising Group) Nominated [86]
Best Home Ent Family/Animation "Yellow Lightning" (Paramount Pictures, Paradise Creative) Nominated
Best Fantasy Adventure TV Spot (for a Feature Film) "1987" (Paramount Pictures, Create Advertising Group) Nominated
2019 Teen Choice Awards August 11, 2019 Choice Action Movie Bumblebee Nominated [84]
Choice Action Movie Actor John Cena Nominated
Choice Action Movie Actress Hailee Steinfeld Nominated
45th Saturn Awards September 13, 2019 Best Science Fiction Film Bumblebee Nominated [85]
Best Supporting Actress Hailee Steinfeld Nominated
2019 Golden Angel Awards November 19, 2019 Most Popular U.S. Film in China Bumblebee Won [87]


In December 2018, when asked about the future of the Transformers franchise, producer Lorenzo di Bonaventura stated that "another big Transformers movie" would be produced and that it would be "different than the ones that we've done before." He avoided the term reboot and instead described the process as more of an "evolution", saying "There's more freedom than I think we originally thought in terms of what we can do". After the success of Bumblebee, he acknowledged that the series will make some changes in tone and style, inspired by the film.[88]

Director Travis Knight said his goal was to return to his animation studio Laika,[89] though he acknowledged that he has a few ideas for a Bumblebee sequel.[90] In January 2019, John Cena expressed interest in reprising his role in a sequel.[91] Writer Christina Hodson said that "[she] knows where [she wants] to go with the next one."[27] In late January, a sequel was announced, due to the film's international box office performance.[92] In March 2019, di Bonaventura confirmed they were developing a script for a Bumblebee sequel.[93]

By January 2020, it was officially announced that a sequel to Bumblebee was in development with a script written by Joby Harold.[94] Later in November of the same year, Steven Caple Jr. was hired to serve as director on the project. Another script, based on the Beast Wars franchise and written by James Vanderbilt, was commissioned as well, with Hasbro to choose between which film they'd make.[95] It was later declared to combine both Harold's and Vanderbilt's treatments together into one, with rewrites by Darnell Metayer and Josh Peters. In April 2021, Anthony Ramos was cast in one of the lead roles for the film. The project will be a joint-venture production between eOne and Paramount Pictures.[96]


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